Man arrested in fireworks store fire that kills 8
July 4, 1996
Web posted at: 1:00 a.m. EDT
SCOTTOWN, Ohio (CNN) -- A fireworks store bustling with Fourth of July shoppers burst into flames Wednesday, killing at least eight people, including three children, as they rushed for the front door. Twelve other people were injured.
Witnesses said someone started the blaze by setting off fireworks inside the store with a cigarette or a lighter. Police charged 24-year-old Todd Hall of Proctorville, Ohio, with eight counts of voluntary manslaughter. Two other men also may have been involved.
"I believe that two of them put the third one up to it. It appears that it was a joke turned deadly," Lawrence County Sheriff Roy Smith said. "They just wanted a little excitement. They just got a lot more than they wanted."
Bottle rockets whizzed, strings of firecrackers exploded and smoke filled the cinder block Ohio River Fireworks building as about 40 people scrambled for safety, witnesses said. It took firefighters two hours to control the blaze.
All of the dead were found within 5 feet of the door, Smith said. Workers were sifting through the rubble of the destroyed shop for more possible victims.
The festive sounds of fireworks going off contrasted bleakly with searchers lifting burn victims out on stretchers, and hinted at the dangers searchers faced as they picked through the debris.
"We couldn't go inside the building until we watered it down. It was two hours. There were fireworks going off," said assistant volunteer fire chief Freddie Burcham.
Five of the injured were in critical condition at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. Whether they were employees of the fireworks store or customers was not immediately known.
Although large fireworks can only legally be sold in Ohio for use outside the state, the Ohio River Fireworks was licensed to sell fireworks, officials said. The store was located near the Ohio River, which is a state line.
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